Skip to main content

Diagnosing the completion of a sound change: Phonetic and phonological evidence for /ʃ/ in Buenos Aires Spanish

  • Marcos Rohena-Madrazo (a1)

This paper presents a sociolinguistic analysis of the variable devoicing of /ʒ/ in Buenos Aires Spanish, a phenomenon previously characterized as a change in progress. A novel method is implemented to determine the completion of the devoicing change by comparing the voicing levels of /ʒ/ to the inherent voicing variability of /s/, as well as by comparing the allophonic patterns of /ʒ/ to those of /s/. If the voicing levels of /ʒ/ are not significantly different from those of /s/ and the /ʒ/ no longer exhibits positional affrication, then the speaker's underlying postalveolar fricative is /ʃ/: they are a “devoicer.” The results suggest that, although older speakers, of both middle and upper classes, exhibit variation in the distribution of “voicers,” most younger speakers are devoicers, indicating that the /ʒ/ devoicing change is nearing conclusion. As a result, the underlying fricative for the majority of Buenos Aires Spanish speakers may very well be /ʃ/.

Hide All
Aguilar, Lourdes. (1997). De la vocal a la consonante. Santiago de Compostela: Universidade de Santiago de Compostela.
Becker, Kara, & Wong, Amy Wing-mei. (2010). The short-a system of New York City English: An update. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 15(2):1120.
Boersma, Paul, & Weenink, David. (2010). Praat: Doing phonetics by computer. Available at: Accessed July 17, 2015.
Borzone de Manrique, Ana María, & Massone, María Ignacia. (1981). Acoustic analysis and perception of Spanish fricative consonants. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 69(4):11451153.
Bradley, Travis G., & Delforge, Ann Marie. (2006). Systemic contrast and the diachrony of Spanish sibilant voicing. In Gess, R. & Arteaga, D. (eds.), Historical Romance linguistics: Retrospective and perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 1952.
Browman, Catherine, & Goldstein, Louis. (1992). Articulatory phonology: An overview. Phonetica 49:155180.
Chang, Charles. (2008). Variation in palatal production in Buenos Aires Spanish. In Westmoreland, M. & Thomas, J. A. (eds.), Selected proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics. Somerville: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. 5463.
Chappell, Whitney. (2011). The intervocalic voicing of /s/ in Ecuadorian Spanish. In Michnowicz, J. & Dodsworth, R. (eds.), Selected proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics. Somerville: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. 5769.
Ciccolella, Pablo. (1999). Globalización y dualización en la Región Metropolitana de Buenos Aires: Grandes inversiones y reestructuración socioterritorial en los años noventa. EURE (Santiago) 25(76):527.
Colantoni, Laura. (2008). Variación micro y macro fonética en español. Estudios de fonética experimental 17:65104.
Fontanella de Weinberg, María B. (1973). El rehilamiento bonaerense a fines de siglo XVIII. Thesaurus 28(2):338343.
Fontanella de Weinberg, María B. (1978). Un cambio lingüístico en marcha: Las palatales en el español bonaerense. Orbis 27:215247.
Fontanella de Weinberg, María B. (1983). Variación y cambio lingüístico en el español bonaerense. Lingüística Española Actual 27:215247.
Fontanella de Weinberg, María B. (1987). El español bonaerense: Cuatro siglos de evolución lingüística. Buenos Aires: Hachette.
Frisch, Stefan, & Wright, Richard. (2002). The phonetics of phonological speech errors: An acoustic analysis of slips of the tongue. Journal of Phonetics 30:139162.
García, Alison. (2013). Allophonic variation in the Spanish sibilant fricative. PhD dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
García, Christina. (2012a). Implicit vs. explicit linguistic awareness and attitudes in Buenos Aires. Paper presented at the Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics 6, University of Arizona, Tucson, April 12–14.
García, Christina. (2012b). Style and gender effects in intervocalic /s/ voicing in Lojano Spanish. Poster presented at the Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics 6, University of Arizona, Tucson, April 12–14.
García, Christina. (2013). Speech rate in a gradient process: Intervocalic /s/ voicing in Lojano Spanish. Poster presented at the Phonetics and Phonology in Iberia 6, Lisbon, Portugal, June 24–25.
Gradoville, Michael Stephen. (2011). Validity in measurements of fricative voicing: Evidence from Argentine Spanish. In Alvord, S. M. (ed.), Selected proceedings of the 5th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Romance Phonology. Laboratory Approaches to Romance Phonology. Somerville: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. 5974.
Guitarte, Guillermo. (1955). El ensordecimiento del žeísmo porteño. Revista de filología española 39:261283.
Guy, Gregory. (1988). Language and social class. In Newmeyer, F. (ed.), Linguistics: The Cambridge survey.Vol. 4: Language: The sociocultural context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 3763.
Hayes, Bruce, & Steriade, Donca. (2004). The phonetic bases of phonological markedness. In Hayes, B., Kirchner, R., & Steriade, D. (eds.), Phonetically-based phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 133.
Hualde, José Ignacio. (2004). Quasi-phonemic contrasts in Spanish. In Schmeiser, B., Chand, V., Kelleher, A., & Rodriguez, A. (eds.), WCCFL Proceedings. Somerville: Cascadilla. 374398.
Hualde, José Ignacio. (2005). The sounds of Spanish, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hualde, José Ignacio, Olarrea, Antxon, Escobar, Anna María, & Travis, Catherine E. (2010). Introducción a la lingüística hispánica. 2nd ed.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hualde, José Ignacio, Simonet, Miquel, & Nadeu, Marianna. (2011). Consonant lenition and phonological recategorization. Laboratory Phonology 2(2):301329.
Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos, República Argentina. (2010). Censo 2010—Resultados provisionales: cuadros y gráficos. Available at: Accessed September 19, 2014.
King, Christina. (2009). Language attitudes toward devoicing among young adults in Buenos Aires. Paper presented at the 13th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 21–24.
Kirchner, Robert. (1998). An effort-based approach to consonant lenition. PhD dissertation, University of California—Los Angeles.
Labov, William. (1966). The social stratification of English in New York City. 1st ed.Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Labov, William .(1972). Sociolinguistic patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Labov, William .(2001). Principles of linguistic change: Social factors. 2nd ed.Oxford: Blackwell.
Labov, William. (2007). Transmission and diffusion. Language 83(2):344387.
Labov, William, Ash, Sharon, & Boberg, Charles. (2006). The Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, phonology, and sound change: A multimedia reference tool. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Lewis, Anthony. (2001). Weakening of intervocalic /p, t, k/ in two Spanish dialects: Toward the quantification of lenition processes. PhD dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Lipski, John. (1989). /S/-voicing in Ecuadoran Spanish: Patterns and principles of consonantal modification. Lingua 79(1):4971.
Machuca Ayuso, María Jesús. (1997). Las obstruyentes no continuas del español: Relación entre las categorías fonéticas y fonológicas en el habla espontánea. PhD dissertation, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
Malmberg, Bertil. (1950). Études sur la phonétique de l'espagnol parlé en Argentine. Lund: Gleerups.
Mapa Interactivo de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. (n.d.). Mapa Interactivo de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. Available at: Accessed July 1, 2011.
Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio. (2008). Some chimeras of traditional Spanish phonetics. In Colantoni, L. & Steele, J. (eds.), Selected proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Spanish Phonology. Somerville: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. 3246.
Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio. (2009). Sonorización de las oclusivas sordas en una hablante Murciana: Problemas que presenta. Estudios de Fonética Experimental 18:253271.
Martínez Celdrán, Eugenio, & Fernández Planas, Ana María. (2007). Manual de fonética española: Articulaciones y sonidos del español, Barcelona: Ariel.
Maspero, Gaston. (1875). Sur quelques singularitées phonétiques de l'espagnol parlé dans la campagne de Buenos Ayres et de Montevideo. Mémoires de la Société de Linguistique de Paris 2:5165.
Milroy, Lesley. (1980). Language and social networks. Oxford: Blackwell.
Morgan, Terrell A. (2010). Sonidos en contexto: una introducción a la fonética del español con especial referencia a la vida real. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Ohala, John. (1983). The origin of sound patterns in vocal tract constraints. In MacNeilage, P. F. (ed.), The production of speech. New York: Springer-Verlag. 189216.
Ohala, John. (1997). Aerodynamics of phonology. Proceedings of the 4th Seoul International Conference on Linguistics [SICOL]. Seoul: The Linguistics Society of Korea. 92–97.
Parrell, Benjamin. (2010). How /b d g/ differ from /p t k/ in Spanish: A dynamic account. Paper presented at LabPhon 12, Albuquerque, July 8–10.
Parrell, Benjamin. (2011). Dynamical account of how /b, d, g/ differ from /p, t, k/ in Spanish: Evidence from labials. Laboratory Phonology 2(2):423449.
Penny, Ralph. (2000). Variation and change in Spanish. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Robinson, Kimball L. (1979). On the voicing of intervocalic s in the Ecuadorian Highlands. Romance Philology 33(1):137143.
Rohena-Madrazo, Marcos. (2008). Buenos Aires Spanish in real time: The advancement of palatal fricative devoicing. Paper presented at the New Ways of Analyzing Variation 37, Rice University, Houston, November 6–9.
Rohena-Madrazo, Marcos. (2011). Sociophonetic variation in the production and perception of obstruent voicing in Buenos Aires Spanish. PhD dissertation, New York University.
Rohena-Madrazo, Marcos. (2013). Variación y cambio de sonoridad de la fricativa postalveolar del español de Buenos Aires. In Colantoni, L. & Rodríguez Louro, C. (eds.), Perspectivas teóricas y experimentales sobre el español de la Argentina. Lingüística iberoamericana. Madrid: Frankfurt am Main: Iberoamericana/Vervuert. 3757.
Sankoff, Gillian, & Blondeau, Hélène. (2007). Language change across the lifespan: /r/ in Montreal French. Language 83(3):560588.
SchmidtLauren, B. Lauren, B., & Willis, Erik W. (2011). Systematic investigation of voicing assimilation of Spanish /s/ in Mexico City. In Alvord, S. M. (ed.), Selected proceedings of the 5th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Romance Phonology. Laboratory Approaches to Romance Phonology. Somerville: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. 120.
Smith, Caroline L. (1997). The devoicing of /z/ in American English: Effects of local and prosodic context. Journal of Phonetics 25:471500.
Stevens, Kenneth N., Blumstein, Sheila E., Glicksman, Laura, Burton, Martha, & Kurowski, Kathleen. (1992). Acoustic and perceptual characteristics of voicing in fricatives and fricative clusters. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 91:29793000.
Torreira, Francisco, & Ernestus, Mirjam. (2010). The Nijmegen Corpus of Casual Spanish. In Chair, N. C. C., Choukri, K., Maegaard, B., Mariani, J., Odijk, J., Piperidis, S., Rosner, M., & Tapias, D. (eds.), Proceedings of the Seventh Conference on International Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC'10). Valletta, Malta: European Language Resources Association (ELRA). 29812985.
Torreira, Francisco, & Ernestus, Mirjam. (2011). Realization of voiceless stops and vowels in conversational French and Spanish. Laboratory Phonology 2(2):331353.
Torreira, Francisco, & Ernestus, Mirjam. (2012). Weakening of intervocalic /s/ in the Nijmegen Corpus of Casual Spanish. Phonetica 69(3):124148.
Torres, Horacio A. (2001). Cambios socioterritoriales en Buenos Aires durante la década de 1990. EURE (Santiago) 27(80):3356.
Westbury, John, & Keating, Patricia. (1986). On the naturalness of stop consonant voicing. Journal of Linguistics 22:145166.
Wikimedia Commons. (2006). Great Buenos Aires. Available at: Accessed September 19, 2014.
Wolf, Clara. (1984). Tiempo real y tiempo aparente en el estudio de una variación lingüística: Ensordecimiento y sonorización del yeísmo porteño. In Schwartz, L. & Lerner, I. (eds.), Homenaje a Ana María Barrenechea. Madrid: Castalia. 175196.
Wolf, Clara, & Jiménez, Elena. (1979). El ensordecimiento del yeísmo porteño: Un cambio fonológico en marcha. In Barrenechea, A. María (ed.), Estudios lingüísticos y dialectológicos: Temas Hispánicos. Buenos Aires: Hachette. 115145.
Zamora Vicente, Alonso. (1949). Rehilamiento porteño. Filología 1:522.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language Variation and Change
  • ISSN: 0954-3945
  • EISSN: 1469-8021
  • URL: /core/journals/language-variation-and-change
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 187 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 538 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.